He's basically a "gender-blind", "colour-blind" regular Nice GuyTM who believes in equality for all. He sees people as human first and wants the same from others. The common definitions of sexist and/or racist (seen as individual attitudes or prejudices) do not apply to him.
But there's a deeper, structural understanding of racism & sexism as a system of power that goes far beyond any individual beliefs or discrimination. In other words, we are all racist and sexist because we participate (i.e. live) in a racist, patriarchal system of dominance. That doesn't mean we're all Ann Coulter. It also doesn't remove our responsibility to try to do something about the system.
As a feminist, anti-racist activist, this interests me, of course. This is a situation in which all the theories I read are pretty irrelevant - here there is pain; there is real anger and hurt.
This young man hurts because he is labeled privileged, simply because he's a white male, something he did not choose and cannot change. But as a youth who grew up poor, in a household with violence, in an unhelpful school system with bullies, believe me, he had no silver spoon. He looks at his life and asks a very fair question: how can this be what privilege looks like?
If it wasn't someone I care about I could perhaps blithely respond: yes there is privilege, if you don't see it it's because you don't have to (your denial proves your privilege and dominance, which is maintained precisely because of its invisibility to those who possess it), there's nothing more to discuss. Of course, that is me talking to the figurative, metaphorical, representation which is "White Man", not to every real individual white man. This is is the real world, and individuals have real feelings and experiences that cannot be adequately captured in such simple statements. As progressives I believe we don't want to alienate those who are trying to make the world a better place, especially by hurting them. That simply drives them into the arms of the right-wingers: Might as well get a shotgun and a gas guzzler and become a real racist sexist prick, since that is what I'm assumed to be anyways.
When we are able and have the energy to do so, I think there is a point to helping those with privilege learn how to accept and understand it, so they can become our allies, even as we continue to learn about our own privilege, and how we ourselves perpetuate oppressions.
The truth is, privilege and oppression are extremely complex. White people and men of different backgrounds have different levels of access to social resources, power and status. Economic class, language, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, even the neighbourhood a person lives in makes a difference. Aside from the intersection of many forms of oppression exist other contradictory examples. Here's one for ya: Patriarchy harms men. Patriarchy privileges men. I believe those two statements are not mutually exclusive.
From Pain and Progress (on the awesome XY site):
Because sexism hurts all men as well as women the ending of sexism is entirely in the interests of all men and all women. The "privileges" of patriarchy are paltry compared to the enormous cost we pay to maintain them. We give up so much of our humanness to become sexist patriarchs and no man who could clearly see what he has lost and is still losing by maintaining patriarchy would hesitate to give it all up. For example the power accorded to us by patriarchy is as nothing compared to the joy of real human connections to other people, men, women and children, based on equality and true relationship. We can't exercise this power and have truly equal relationships with women.
Interestingly, marginalization is at issue here too. Now we know that it is the white male perspective that is the "invisible" perspective: the universal position of imagined objectivity. Those on the margins have historically been silenced. Recognizing viewpoints that come from different experiences is an important part of our work. This does not necessarily mean that an individual white male is given a forum or platform (which are of course not identical to the dominant mainstream white supremacist viewpoint), meaning our theories do not resonate within him. They don't jive with his experience, so he may turn away from feminism and anti-racist activism completely.
I think growing our movements and building coalitions means trying to understand the pain we all experience as both oppressors and oppressed.
From Trauma and Oppression, Chapter 4 of Power-Under: Trauma and Nonviolent Social Change, from which I've quoted before:
One of the distinctive features of our social/economic/political system is the way in which it parcels out privilege and power-over. While there are enormous concentrations of wealth, status and power at the top, there are also infinite gradations of economic, social and political standing throughout the rest of the society. The result is that while virtually everyone is oppressed in some significant way, almost everyone also has access to some type of privilege and to one or more oppressor roles. This is an aspect of what Aurora Levins Morales calls the "interpenetration of institutional systems of power."
Most white people and most heterosexuals and most able-bodied people and most people who hold wealth beyond their needs simply think of themselves as normal, and think of their privileges as something that they have earned or that they deserve or that give them some modicum of social value and self-respect. People from oppressed constituencies who aspire to privilege and dominance surely do not think in terms of aspiring to become oppressors, but in terms of achieving statuses and positions from which they have been categorically excluded.
At the other end of the spectrum, when people identify as victims of oppression, it can all too easily block their willingness or ability to recognize the ways in which they also hold privilege and dominant roles.
As victims we are understandably preoccupied with our own experience of being acted upon in utter disregard for our worth as human beings. Our suffering unavoidably fills up our entire psychological landscape and – to the extent that we are politically conscious of oppression – our political landscape. The overwhelming impact of trauma can make it difficult or impossible to believe that the suffering of other oppressed groups could be as serious or as profound as our own.
I know this has been a long and rambling post. I'd be interested to hear other thoughts on this.